Ed Driscoll

Are Economics And Environmentalism Secular Religions?

At the American Enterprise blog, Jay Richards writes:

In a recent book, The New Holy Wars, Robert Nelson argues that economics and environmentalism are “secular” religions. (Nelson is a senior fellow at the Independent Institute and professor of environmental policy at the University of Maryland.) I haven’t read the entire book yet, but according the synopsis, apparently he argues not only that economics and environmentalism have theological roots (which they do), but also that they constitute the two public religions vying for supremacy in our public square.

The irony, of course, is that these two “religions,” according to Nelson, have similar origins (including a distorted form of Calvinism) but have more or less incompatible moral visions. I can’t comment on the details of Nelson’s thesis until I read the whole book, but I think he’s on to something. I would put the point this way: The perennial problem for both economic and environmental arguments is that they’re often framed, officially, in scientific terms, but almost all of their interest is moral.

Or as would-be eschaton immanentizer Al Gore recently wrote, “From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.”